The castle was erected on the initiative of Bolesław II the Bald in the last quarter of the 13th century. His son Bolko I the Strict, the Duke of Świdnica and Jawor, continued it expansion in relation with the policy of maintaining the independence of the duchy and protecting of passages through the Sudetes. The castle also served as the ducal treasury. At that time, a circumference of the defensive walls, a tower and the first residential buildings were erected. In the first half of the fourteenth century, the development was carried out during the reign of the dukes Bernard and Bolek II. It led to the merger of earlier buildings in the courtyard into one dwelling and domestic building, today called the Gothic House. The expansion was also carried out of the gates and the outer walls of the castle, thanks to which it becomes one of the strongest strongholds in Silesia.
In 1392, after the childless death of Bolek II, the castle became the property of the Czech kings. It was not captured during the Hussite wars, although the city was plundered and burned. In 1463, the Czech king George of Podebrady placed the knight Hans von Tschirnhaus in Bolków, who transformed the castle into a robbery nest, terrorizing the surrounding lands. This led to the retaliation of the armed expedition of Wrocław and Świdnica townsmen in 1468.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the castle was handed over to the Wrocław bishopric by king Ferdinand I, which led to its thorough rebuilding in the renaissance style, as well as the extension of the fortification system and their adaptation to artillery defense. These works were managed by an Italian architect Jakub Parr, well-known than in Silesia. In the 17th century, during the Thirty Years War, the castle was occupied by the Swedes, but after this event it lost its military significance. Therefore, in 1703, it was sold to the Cistercians from Krzeszów, and after their secularization became the property of the Prussian state. Since the beginning of the 19th century, the authorities have allowed the demolition of part of the walls, happily interrupted in the 20th century.
The shape of the castle was dictated by the form of the top of an elongated, high hill on which it was erected, flowing from the north and west by the waters of the Nysa Szalona River, and from the east falling down the slopes towards the town. Its central part was occupied by a Gothic core of the castle with a length of about 80 meters, 22-29 meters wide and an area of about 2350 m2. Inner ward was surrounded by a circumferential wall about 2 meters thick, crowned with a porch in the wall thickness and a breastwork. From the level of the inner courtyard to the porch level, the height of the wall is 6 meters, from the outside it reached up to 15 meters in height.
In the south-western part of the courtyard there is a free-standing tower called Hunger, with 25 meters high and 12-15 meters in diameter. It is an exceptional work in Polish defense architecture due to of its nose, aimed at the greatest threat. The spur was supposed to cause the missiles to slip over the planes of the tower. The interior of the tower had four floors: vaulted basement, first floor originally covered by a timber ceiling, second floor with rib vault and an open top on which there was a defensive gallery secured by a breastwork with a shooting holes. The original entrance to the tower was on the level of the first floor, at a height of 9 meters. In the basement there was a dungeon, which could only be accessed from a height of 10 meters. Movement between the floors was made possible by stairs, placed inside a 4.5 meter thick wall and lit by sparsely spaced slots.
Next to the tower was the original gate passage, while residential houses and economic buildings were located along the south-eastern and north-eastern perimeter walls. The oldest building was located near the north-eastern curtain and had three floors. Its ground floor and first floor, measuring 20×6 meters of interior, did not have any brick divisions, a wooden ceiling was spread over the ground floor, and partition walls were also wooden. The entrance to the building led directly from the courtyard: there was one central portal on the ground floor and two side portals on the first floor, probably connected by a timber porch. The first floor probably had a representative and residential function, which is indicated by the traces of the wall niche and the entrance to the latrine, whereas the ground floor, similar to other buildings of this type, served economic purposes.
The next buildings were located along the southern curtain. The oldest building, perhaps originally tower-like, was located on the south-western side, right next to the Hunger tower. The next ones were added in the course of the 14th century to its north-eastern wall, finally creating a compact series of houses with three buildings running along the southern defensive walls. The nearest part of the tower had three floors, of which two lower were lit only with small windows, and the third, upper one (rebuilt in the fourteenth century) perhaps contained a chapel with a rib vault. As a result of the reconstruction, the part closer to the tower was three-story, while the eastern part was two-storey, and the whole was one-bay. Vertical communication between floors could take place by means of stairs or external, wooden porches, as evidenced by portals at the height of the first floor from the side of the courtyard.
In the 14th century, the new gate was built and strengthened in the form of an extended to the east foregate, in which the road turned to the portal pierced in the wall of the main circuit. After the sixteenth century extensions, the castle was already surrounded by three courtyards with buildings and low towers. From the side of the Nysa river valley an elongated courtyard was created which curtain ran from the western corner of the so-called House of the Women in the direction of the corner tower, where it turned 90 degrees towards the gothic foregate. The corner tower and its bulge come from the later period, although the sixteenth-century reconstruction. The breastwork of the walls was initially topped with a crenelage, later replaced by a series of shooting holes and covered porch. To equalize the area of courtyard, debris from gothic foregate, demolished at that time, was used. In the second half of the sixteenth century, a south-western courtyard was created, which wall began at the town tower and arched towards the new foregate on the western side. Its neck was 12 meters long and closed with two modest portals. A small guard building was erected just behind it. In the length of the wall of the southern courtyard there were also two half towers, open from the inside. The town tower, which was originally semi-cylindrical and open from the inside, was then closed by a second semi-circle from the east and incorporated into the castle fortifications. Another courtyard on the south side was separated from the south – west court by a transverse wall with a wicket. In its fortifications the most important role was played by the great bastion, which housed a new gate leading to the town. Another bastion (formed from the former town tower) was placed in the extended northern corner, moreover, in the south-eastern wall curtain was placed two half towers: one three-sided and one semicircular.
The remains of modernization from the 16th century are also attics in the “dovetail” shape. On the north side, there was also built a new residential building called the House of Women, connected by a gallery with previously existing buildings. The castle was coupled with town fortifications in the north and south corners.
The castle has been preserved in the form of an impressive ruin with a distinctive Hunger Tower and a renaissance residential building (the so-called House of Women). The layout of defensive walls and a series of gothic residential buildings have also been well preserved, unfortunately without internal divisions. The castle houses a museum with, among others, the exhibition “Defense Construction of the Duchy of Świdnica-Jawor”, presenting models of several fortresses. Opening hours in the season are from May 1 to September 30 Monday: 9:00 – 15:30; Tuesday-Friday: 9:00 – 16:30; Saturday-Sunday: 9:00 – 17:30. Off-season from October 1 to April 30 Monday 9:00 – 15:30, Tuesday-Friday: 9:00 – 15:30; Saturday-Sunday: 9:00 – 15:30.
Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. T. Mroczko, M. Arszyński, Warszawa 1995.
Boguszewicz A., Corona Silesiae. Zamki Piastów fürstenberskich na południowym pograniczu księstwa jaworskiego, świdnickiego i ziębickiego do połowy XIV wieku, Wrocław 2010.
Czerner O., Rozpędowski J., Bolków i Świny, Wrocław 1960.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Webpage zamek-bolkow.info.pl, Historia zamku.